Feinbaum was a mystery. He belonged to those of God’s children who always make me wonder whether their creator is devoted to them with particular love or whether he hates them especially heartily. Maybe the creator himself is not sure about it either and is as wavering in his attitude towards those human beings as we mortals are.
There can be no doubt, however, that fellows like Feinbaum never meet with indifference as long as they are active among us. Or that they get overlooked.
Feinbaum had bright days. On those days he shone.
Warmth and light surrounded him, and the air around him virtually vibrated. On those days Feinbaum was a field of force that attracted and inspired all of us. It almost seemed as if on those days his body became too strait for his expansive soul and his labouring mind. They poured out of him and surrounded him like an aura anyone could sense who had the opportunity to work with him.
In those times he was a gentleman and charmer, a faith healer and mage – he was the matador and champion of our company without the least swagger.
And he was an exceptional designer. I do not exaggerate when I say that in his bright days he was one of the best I have ever worked with – perhaps the best of all. His ideas were clear and lucid and had the kind of plain elegance that is distinctive of the great designers in art history.
And furthermore Feinbaum was capable of explaining his designs. Nothing was haphazard, nothing dispensable – he deduced every detail in a conversational tone and gave his audience the certainty that they would have done it just in the same way themselves.
Those bright days, and the greatness as a designer Feinbaum would then unfold, were the reason why he had not been fired two or three weeks after having joined the company.
For there were his dark days besides the bright ones.
Those were the days when his creator hated him and when Feinbaum was the incarnation of the downtrodden and anguished creature.
Feinbaum crumpled up in almost no time – he even seemed to shrivel up bodily, to wither away. His light extinguished and, instead, a shade spread from him, rather sensible than visible. Yes, shadow was around him, hopelessness so intensive that it almost felt like rage. I even feel bound to say – reluctantly, to this day – I even feel bound to say that Feinbaum in his dark days grew smelly. Or, to put it bluntly: he began to stink.
Like a sick starving crow he stalked about the office and pecked around in all directions. He growled and hissed and snorted. He was hostile to everyone. And those in particular to whom he had opened his heart in his bright days were now treated with bitter hostility.
It is in our nature as human beings that bad things impress us more than good things. Thus it was not surprising that Feinbaum’s dark days had the greater effect in the long run.
He deterred people. So much so that even in his bright days he could less and less enchant them and win them back.
Soon, Feinbaum was isolated. And with increasing isolation the dark days began to gain more power over him. The evil periods not only grew more intensive but lasted longer and longer. Eventually, one or two friendly days could be followed by weeks of gloom.
Feinbaum secluded himself. More and more frequently, he even refused to work. And some day, he began to fling a scarf over his head when he was sitting huddled up at his desk in the corner.
By and by he became the spectre of himself, a nasty, nasty joke.
New fellows joined the company who had never seen his bright days; old colleagues left. The newcomers laughed at the old crow and amused themselves over his hateful whining.
Feinbaum, the office bugbear.
Finally, even the laughing ceased. The nasty joke was worn. Feinbaum had become irrelevant. An old crock whom the boss, for unknown reasons, still allowed his puny existence in the office.
No, he was not relevant any more. A designer? No. Feinbaum was nothing.
At that time I myself left the company. I had new plans and set out into the world to put my mark on it. I had been one of the last to keep faith with Feinbaum, but now he disappeared below my horizon and from my mind.
It was five or six years later that I came back to the town. In a fit of nostalgia and – I admit it – out of a wee bit appetite for recognition I paid a visit to the office, too.
First, it was rather disappointing as almost no-one was left of the old staff. The boss appeared to still bear me a grudge for having quit and was quite short-spoken. The others – well, the young generation. They sat clicking and clacking in front of monitor and keyboard, took bird-like sips of coffee from cardboard cups or of water from bottles that looked like astronauts’ gadgets. They were absorbed and – young. They were not eager to hear my stories from the wide world.
I was already about to leave with some frustration and resentment. The hat in my hand, I muttered a vague goodbye into the room – and, back there in his dark corner, spotted Feinbaum.
Did I just state that man only keeps the dark and evil things in his head and heart? Nonsense, gibberish! I spotted Feinbaum and a little shock of joy flashed through my guts. It was the good days, the bright days that were back in my mind at once. Feinbaum, beaming and vibrant. Feinbaum, friend of beauty. Feinbaum, the winking giant of design.
I tossed my hat back onto the shelf and with five, six steps stood at his desk. The big scarf was hanging over his head. Dark days, no doubt. But maybe my visit, the unexpected meeting again were unusual and surprising enough to burst through Feinbaum’s black sky and get me a gracious reception.
I smiled and was almost touched when I reached for his shoulder and shook him gently.
“Feinbaum. How’s business?”
It is not things good or evil in the broad context that stick in our memories, no. I correct myself once again and hold that it is small isolated fragments that we never forget, trifles our mind turns into monuments, tiny details – details just like that thin black spider that fell out of the darkness beneath Feinbaum’s scarf when I shook him.
Feinbaum’s funeral was three days later. Besides me there were only a remote relative and the boss.
It was a windy, chilly, damp day in February. I shivered and pulled my scarf up a little.
(translated version of the cover story of “Feinbaum)